I’m terribly excited because this time tomorrow I will be on a flight to Hong Kong! I know I already went last year, but when Night Owl and I were discussing where to go for our two year anniversary celebration, we immediately thought about the too-short stay we had in Hong Kong. It was wet season when we stayed and so we hadn’t been able to do half of the things we had wanted to, including catch the Star Ferry across the iconic harbour, and go up to The Peak. I’ve checked the weather and it’s more or less the same temperature as Sydney currently is, but humidity is a sweltering 80%+ *mops brow*. I’m not quite sure as to how to dress for that sort of weather! Looks like we will both be taking our leather jackets with us.
I’m keen to try more of the street food that we missed out on. We are staying around Causeway Bay, Times Square this time. Last time we stayed at the Ibis near Sheung Wan and the area was fairly deserted, despite reviews telling me that it was “the place to be.” I’m hoping that the more lively shopping area will have more food vendors and restaurants – with all the egg waffles, pineapple (bolo) buns, egg tarts, milk tea, and roast duck that we can eat! We are also very keen on checking out an authentic yum cha house – the traditional style where it’s all communal tables and there’s a special “tea man”. It will be interesting to compare the yum cha there with the growing calibre of yum cha restaurants in Sydney.
I had the pleasure of being invited to Golden Sands Restaurant in Hurstville to attend their lunch yum cha service. Hurstville is a bit out of the way for me, but thank goodness for having a car! Navigating the nearby Westfield car park was a headache on its own, with its ticket-less licence-plate-recognition-system.
We finally made it out of Westfield and onto the streets of Hurstville. I have never been out this way before and I realised very quickly that Night Owl – being half-white-Australian- stood out like a sore thumb as the demographic was overwhelmingly Asian. The streets were packed full of Chinese barbecue restaurants, Asian butchers with their fluorescent pink lighting, and Asian grocery shops with their displays of bulk-buy instant noodles, sarsaparilla and exotic vegetables spilling out onto the street.
Get out of the hustle and bustle on the street and head into Hurstville Times Plaza and up the escalator, where Golden Sands sits on the second floor. As Chinese New Year was not too long ago, red and gold decorations and wall hangings still remained, and the decor is simple, modern and new – fresh carpet, a high ceiling, luxuriously soft padded chairs. This is not the type of yum cha restaurant where piles of dirty dishes are left on the floor beside the kitchen or unused circular tables lean against the wall behind you while you eat.
We arrived late for yum cha – about 2pm – and about half of the restaurant remained. I gave my name at the front desk and the two of us were seated at an enormous table that could have seated six, before all of the trolley ladies in the restaurant converged on us all at once. This was quite a hilarious moment as the last time we went to yum cha I had resorted to getting up and chasing after the trolley ladies with my meal ticket in order to get anything to eat.
All your usual yum cha fare is here – from the har gow to the sui mai, the fried taro dumplings that I love so much. At one stage I was preoccupied with talking to two of the chefs, and the trolley ladies converged on Night Owl, who knows no Mandarin or Cantonese to speak of. I almost burst out laughing when I heard her say a very hesitant “…dim sum…?” (as dim sum means yum cha – so any dish).
The traditional yum cha fare is some of the most well-made dim sum I have tasted. The skin on the steamed dumplings are slightly chewy to taste; quite bouncy in texture and perfectly steamed so that the dumplings come out of the basket easily without sticking or falling apart when speared with chopsticks. The fillings in the steamed dim sims are very finely chopped and stuffed full of mince, dried shrimp, shiitake mushrooms and vegetables. The restaurant also make their own preservative-free chilli dipping sauce (which packs quite a punch!) and even their own XO sauce.
I had a long chat with two of the chefs during our meal, and I was interested to hear about their years spent studying dim sum overseas, their work experience overseas and in Australia, and how one of the chefs was one of the few women to have reached the status of being a head chef in the yum cha hospitality industry. She travels back overseas regularly to assess trends and what is new. She came up with this dish which I have never seen before; it’s one of Golden Sands’ specialty dishes. With four or five other yum cha restaurants in the Hurstville area, it’s best to stay on top of the game!
It is a black rice vermicelli roll, encasing a layer of fried pastry, which encases a filling of lightly steamed fish and prawns. Upon asking about the colour, she said that more people nowadays are becoming increasingly concerned about the amount of preservatives and additives in their food.
All of the yum cha fare at Golden Sands is preservative and additive free. For this dish, black rice is high in antioxidants and lower in GI than white rice, and also makes the dish instantly eye-catching when it arrives at the table!
There was also an extensive selection of sweets to choose from that weren’t your typical mango pancakes and puddings. There were durian custard pastry rolls (which I later took to my Malaysian brother-in-law who almost inhaled them whole), beautifully fluffy salted egg custard buns, red date cake, and glutinous rice cakes with various fillings (some with more durian!).
I could barely even eat half of the food that had been brought out, so luckily the chefs obliged by bringing out lots of takeaway boxes so that none of it was wasted! I shared the dumplings with my sister, and she declared that even re-heated in the microwave at home, it was the best yum cha she has ever had. My parents are back in Sydney and I’ve told them all about it – so looks like I will be making another trip down to Hurstville later this month…after Hong Kong!
Golden Sands Restaurant
Hurstville Times Plaza
Level 2, 127-141 Forest Road
Hurstville NSW 2220
(02) 9580 3188